Work permitting

I have been a fan of football management simulation games since the heady days of Football Director on PCs or Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes on the Commodore. In those early days when graphics were a luxury and the real footballers were not bothered with their virtual ratings, one of the ways to add a touch of realism to the game was the issue of the work permit.

You’d be the budding manager of Crewe Alexandra, a team militating in the doldrums of the English lower divisions, and you’d try your luck to purchase a player from ‘overseas’. Having satisfied the monetary demands of the selling club, you would then hope upon hope that the player passes the final test before joining your club: that he obtains a work permit to be able to ply his profession legally.

We tend to forget that football, like any other profession, involves gainful employment. Even the G.O.A.Ts of this world have to sign employment contracts to receive their stellar salary. How they manage the taxable part of it is another matter altogether – as in the real world of us mortals, the richer the player, the better his tax advisors are in getting him to avoid more tax. But back to the footballers and their work permits.

A little story caught my eye this week concerning Gambian player Moussa Sowe who had been part of Joseph Portelli’s Hamrun Spartans’ splendid European Cup run earlier this season. The Spartans, with Sowe in their ranks, had a glittering campaign in the UEFA Conference League early rounds, venturing where no Maltese club had ventured before, stopping only when facing the historic Partizan Belgrade.

Sowe had joined Portelli’s club in the summer. As a Gambian national, he would also be eligible to be considered for national team managed by none other than ex- Malta national team coach Tom Saintfiet who is often visiting the island to scout prospective candidates for his record-breaking Scorpions.

It turns out that Moussa Sowe’s stay among the black and reds was short-lived since his bid for a working permit was refused by the Maltese authorities.

So having been allowed to stay long enough for the European Cup run, his contract was forcibly rescinded after failing the administrative hurdle reserved for foreigners trying to earn their living on the island. Sowe was snapped up by Italian Serie D side Afragolese, the side from Afragola in Campania and will presumably continue his professional career in another EU state that proved less demanding for issuing a work permit.

There is something odd about Joseph Portelli’s team, of all teams, slipping on a work permit. Somehow the man who openly admits to cajoling authorities to get permits of all kinds failed to keep hold of a promising player in the footballing world.

Hamrun Spartans raised the white flag without a whimper and did not even ask for the divine intervention of failed politician cum football guru Muscat to repair the damage.

Muscat has been given more undeserved limelight with his conjectures on revamping Maltese football and its premier league. We tend to forget that this involves much more than sport.

Football is also a business that employs, develops and expands. Stadiums and their surroundings are a gold mine of opportunities; the professional players and their work permits are only an ancillary issue.

Also, don’t forget the betting, the fan base demands and the publicity. The football world fits nicely in the web of potentially corruptible businesses where the darker sides of politics and business can thrive.

Hapless politicians are attracted like fireflies to the glitzy world of footballing superstars and easy propaganda with the faithful. In what seems like ages ago, we had the controversial minister accepting a private trip to watch a football match in the UK. We then saw a police commissioner at another football match… this time in Italy. Now we have the Tourism Minister taking a contingent the size of a football team to sign a non-disclosed sponsorship contract with the Devilish side of Manchester.

Public money, and no concern for conflict of interest. Work permitting, of course.


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4 days ago

Mafiamalta 360 degrees

4 days ago

Maltese Football is going the Mafia Way, illegal betting and game selling will make millions to the betting company. Muscat & Portelli Gambling Ring Ltd. Muscat Money through the Portelli Laundries .

Mariatheresa Micallef
Mariatheresa Micallef
4 days ago

This shows exactly what Portelli is truly after and it’s definitely neither interest in the individual players nor because he ‘likes seeing people happy’. The moron.

Lino Farrugia
Lino Farrugia
3 days ago

Where Muscat steps in ..there’s always foul smell and a not-so-hidden opportunity for the corrupt to flourish.

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